December 28, 2009

Rabid Rewind: Drag Me to Hell

Title: Drag Me to Hell
Starring: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Released: 2009
Genre: Horror

I'm the kind of guy who still marvels (no pun intended) at the fact that the director of the Spider-Man trilogy, Sam Raimi, is the man behind the Evil Dead trilogy. Mind you, it's not nearly as mind boggling as the fact that Robert Rodriguez is responsible for Desperado and Spy Kids. So, I wonder if people who came to know Raimi's work through the Spider-Man films were taken aback with news that Drag Me to Hell was going to be an all-out horror film.

I enjoy the Evil Dead films, but I must admit that it has more to do with Bruce Campbell's performances than Sam Raimi's writing and directing. Still, Drag Me to Hell is one of the few horror films to come out in 2009 that I've been looking forward to watching. I'm not a Saw fan, the teen horror schlock doesn't interest me in the least, and anything that looks remotely watchable tends to be obscure direct-to-DVD fare that I'll never see unless I win the lottery and go nuts with online shopping. Drag Me to Hell, for me, is a breath of fresh air in mainstream horror cinema.

What makes this film all the more enjoyable is the fact that it doesn't take itself too seriously. The steel trap of many a horror film is failure to recognize the humor and absurdity that may exist in some facet of the film. At no point does Drag Me to Hell misstep into becoming a parody of itself. Tongue is squarely in cheek through much of this movie, which is practically a bar code for any Sam Raimi film.

Alison Lohman plays a loan officer, Christine, with aspirations of becoming assistant manager. But the question hanging over her head is whether she's cutthroat enough to make the tough calls regarding clients and applicants. Enter Sylvia, played remarkably by Lorna Raver. Sylvia is old, a little crude, a fair distance from fetching, and in need of an extension on her mortgage payments. She's ill and the costs have taken a toll on her. When Christine gently refuses her, Sylvia begs. When Christine bristles and calls security, Sylvia attacks.

It's at this point when the movie's tone veers from Sophie Kinsella to Stephen King. Sylvia puts a curse on Christine, which will have the mousy banker literally dragged into Hell if she can't break the curse in three days. The scare tactics are familiar yet effective in the escalating stages of Christine's torment, plus a few sight gags--a nosebleed scene strikes a surprisingly funny chord--help ease the tension. Justin "I'm a Mac" Long makes for a nice twist on the doting girlfriend schtick, in a nice bit of role reversal, with his incessant rationality towards Christine's plight and his quick wit aimed at the odd things they encounter while looking for a solution.

Horror fans have already watched this movie and chimed in, but those with an aversion to movies like this may want to at least consider watching it. The film is fast-paced, humorous, frightful, and has an ending that is sudden and satisfying.

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